The Socialist and Syndicalist Movements in France
by William Z. Foster
An article first published in Industrial Worker [Spokane, WA], vol. 3, no. 1, whole no. 105 (March 23, 1911), pp. 1, 4.
Published in the USA prior to 1923, contents public domain.
Former Socialist turned hardline Syndicalist William Z. Foster takes on a fundamental premise of American socialist ideology in this lengthy article from the IWW press -- the notion that the workers' movement advances through joint party-political and trade union-economic activity.
Citing French experience, Foster challenges the idea that political action and direct action are complementary, arguing instead that the intellectual-dominated political movement collaborates with capitalism to expand its own influence at the expense of the working class economic movement. Political socialism and economic syndicalism are held by Foster to be competing and adversarial tendencies.
Politicians of every stripe, including Socialist politicians, are said by Foster to manipulate organized workers under the pretext of helping them. Foster asserts that Syndicalists actually see their movement as self-sufficient, solving their problems successfully by "direct action tactics alone." Rather than attempting to "penetrate" the government to pass ameliorative legislation, as the Socialists would have it, Syndicalist direct action coerces the state into the passage of laws, in Foster's view. Foster calls upon the IWW as an organization to maintain a policy of "strict official neutrality towards all political parties" and for its members to "vigorously combat the political action theory, be it advocated by the SP or any other 'party.'"
This piece was written in response to an article by Robert Rives LaMonte entitled "How To Kick," published in the January 1911 issue of International Socialist Review. The Foster piece is signed Jan. 24, 1911 from Paris.
Foster, of course, later executed another ideological "zig-zag" in 1921, joining the Communist Party of America and emerging as one of the top leaders of the organization.
Transcribed and edited by Tim Davenport.
Published by 1000 Flowers Publishing, Corvallis, OR, June 2013.
Non-commercial reproduction permitted.
Uploaded to Archive.org by Tim Davenport ("Carrite") on June 21, 2013.